Titans are looking for upward move on baseball field

Published 10:25 pm Monday, February 23, 2009

The Port Arthur Memorial Titans baseball program may still be a year or two away from being where head coach Wayne McKeller wants it, but that does not mean McKeller isn’t thinking about the possibilities of the playoffs this season.

No doubt a postseason in baseball for Memorial would be about as impressive a feat as feats can be impressive. The program has never been in the playoffs and District 21-5A is not exactly an easy one.

On top of that, Memorial was just 9-14 overall and 1-11 in league play in 2008.

But four of those district losses were two-run games. And McKeller had a handful of freshman and sophomores starting. Now, the Titans have pitching experience. as well as players who have been in the program for four years — something that means a whole lot to McKeller.

“There is not a whole lot of interest in baseball in Port Arthur and not a lot of youth leagues,” McKeller explained. “Every year I’ve been here we’ve had more and more players at tryouts but we have to cut so many because we usually don’t have enough coaches for more than one team.”

This year, McKeller has a full varsity and junior varsity roster, as well as four baseball coaches.

McKeller said he is hoping this is the year and the group of players that helps baseball grow in Port Arthur.

“We are actually talking about the playoffs and I think we have the pitching and talent to get us there. That’s our mindset,” McKeller said.

“We now have experience at several positions, a nucleus of starters and quality pitchers. We have guys with baseball knowledge and I really think if we stay healthy, we could make a run at this. We know it won’t be easy but there are four teams that make the playoffs and only six teams in the district.”

Returning to the Titans lineup are seniors Christian Rodriguez, Tevin Turner, and Jessie Taylor. Also back for the Titans are juniors Diego Marentes, Stedman Haynes, and Paul Roy and sophomores Jaylon Lott and Rony Sanchez, who was a second-team all-district pitcher in 2008 as a freshman.

Sanchez had an ERA of 1.62 last season and also hit for .342.

Senior Chance Filer joins the varsity for his first year with the team. McKeller plans for Filer to be in right field. Roy will play center and left field will likely go to Haynes.

Turner, a lefty, plays first base, Taylor catches, Marentes holds third, Rodriguez plays short and freshman Christian Sanchez will be at second base.

“We have a lot of hopes for this group. From Rony to our freshman Sanchez, we think this team is very capable,” McKeller said.

Freshman Jesus Gutierrez, as well as Marquies Samuels, Jacoby Berry and sophomore Jaylon Lott, who is a utility player and pitcher, fill out the rest of the Titans’ roster.

Marentes is the most experienced ball player for Memorial. He is a four-year starter and hit for .312 last season.

Lott, who spent most of his freshman year as a DH and pitching, finished with a batting average of .326.

Lott will likely serve the team in those same roles this season.

The Titans begin their season by hosting Central today at 6:30 p.m. Memorial will then go to Hitchcock for a three-day tournament that starts Thursday.

Memorial will also participate in tournaments at Orangefield and Kirbyville this season.

The district portion of Port Arthur’s schedule will start March 10 at North Shore, which is the one team McKeller does not know too much about.

“Channelview and the Baytown schools are all very good. West Brook is solid as well,” he said. “We will need to stay healthy and catch some breaks but I know we should be competitive and give ourselves a chance at the playoffs.

“I don’t know anything about North Shore but we’re going to have to beat out two of those teams to get where we want to be.”